Last year, we reviewed Soundcore’s Liberty 2 Pro earbuds after they’d been recommended by 10 Grammy-winning producers. Now Soundcore’s Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds have received the same treatment from 10 more Grammy winners. What’s all the fuss about? Are these wireless earbuds really the best ones for producers, artists and avid music listeners?
The Liberty Air 2 Pros build on their predecessor, the Liberty Air 2 earbuds, with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and PureNote driver technology. Their design is much more stylish and lightweight than the Liberty 2 Pro’s, albeit rather Apple-esque. They come in similar packaging to the Liberty 2 Pros, with a compact pocket-sized USB-C charging case that extends their seven-hour battery life to 26, which beats the AirPods Pro but comes significantly short of the Liberty 2 Pros’ 32 hours. Some variations in the product names could alleviate confusion here, Soundcore.
That 26 hours, however, is ample for casual music listening and referencing, podcast episodes and the odd phone or conference call. The pro buds are comfortable for these applications but after extended listening periods there was some slight aching where the buds were sat. The Liberty Air 2 Pros’ phone call mics are up to scratch, likely due to their six noise-cancelling microphones and low-latency performance. There are touch-control points that can be mapped within the Soundcore app for play, pause, skip, volume up/down, ANC on/off, and voice assistant activation, which are definitely useful. Another handy feature is the pausing of playback when removing an earbud – ideal for short social interactions. These are IPX4 water-resistant too, making them good for everyday and workout use but not for swimming.
Soundcore says the Liberty Air 2 Pros boast pure sound thanks to their PureNote Technology – which essentially means that each 11m driver is coated with 10 nano-layers for extra stiffness. The company says this results in “45 per cent more bass and a 30 per cent wider frequency bandwidth”. These figures feel arbitrary and incomparable. However, it’s hard not to be impressed by Soundcore’s achievement in sound reproduction here. The Liberty Air 2 Pros have been fine-tuned by Soundcore experts with feedback from a pool of 100,000 Soundcore customers. The result is a defined midrange, clear highs and punchy bass – made all the sweeter by HearID within the Soundcore app.
HearID is an imperative tool with the Liberty Air 2 Pros. Download the Soundcore app, select the earbuds and initiate HearID. You’ll be required to tap the screen until you stop hearing a tone, as a range of frequencies plays back to you. This helps HearID formulate a custom EQ graph, tailored to your hearing. You can then manually adjust EQ nodes to your preferenceS. There are genre-specific presets too, which are fine, but you probably won’t want to swap EQ settings every time you want to change genres. HearID works a dream anyway.
When playing back some neo-soul and hip-hop on the Liberty Air 2 Pros, we can hear the sub-heavy kick drums and crisp snare clearly, with grainy jazz elements playing over the top with an elegant midrange. Vocals shine through and feel natural, and the stereo image is wide and rich. These buds punch above their weight when it comes to price and they certainly trump the audio quality of the AirPods Pro, which are slightly more dull-sounding in comparison.
The Liberty Air 2 Pros’ sibling, the Liberty 2 Pros, do have an edge on sound quality, however. They produce an ever-so-slightly better bass response, with more impactful kicks and basslines; their bulkier design allows for a little more power in their drivers.
Note that the earbuds use SBC and AAC audio codec formats, as used by most manufacturers. We are yet to achieve truly lossless audio via Bluetooth so the bitrate playback from the Liberty Air 2 Pros will be a maximum of about 320kbps, with a 16-bit bit depth and 48kHz sample rate.
The first time we put on the Liberty Air 2 Pros, we were taken aback by the Active Noise Cancelling – we thought a colleague was pranking us by whispering but it was actually the ANC kicking in. It’s fantastic for reducing ambient sounds and has four modes to choose from, plus two transparent modes. We’re hesitant to comply with the ‘cancelling’ of ANC in earbuds though. Active Noise Reduction would feel more appropriate.
Transport, Indoor, Outdoor and Custom are available for noise reduction, with the first three attenuating frequencies associated with the ambient noise of those locations. Fully Transparent and Vocal Mode can be selected for social situations. They all work in their respective ways and will be useful in commuting but there is no cancellation going on here. Few other manufacturers have nailed it but the AirPods Pro will give you better ANC – for an extra £90.
Here’s the kicker: ANC on the Liberty Air 2 Pros actually affects audio playback. Switch through the different modes and it’s immediately apparent that in its efforts to reduce noise, it’s also slightly reducing frequency content in the mids and highs. Don’t activate ANC if not absolutely necessary, then. Fortunately, we live in a world of firmware updates so this could be fixed soon.
Give me Liberty
Ultimately, with Soundcore’s Liberty Air 2 Pros, you aren’t getting studio-quality sound. But that’s not what wireless earbuds are built for; when you leave the studio, you want to be able to enjoy the music you’re making or drawing inspiration from without having to drag around expensive high-end headphones. Soundcore’s affordable solution gives you a great listening experience alongside desirable everyday consumer features.
As an iPhone user, this writer enjoys the seamless integration between smartphone and AirPods Pro but, given the choice, he’d save £100 and go for the Liberty Air 2 Pros and get superior playback performance. Hopefully, the issue of ANC affecting audio quality can be fixed, because it does let the Liberty Air 2 Pros down. We can live without having Active Noise Reduction on for a while, though – it’s not like anyone is using noisy public transport right now. Besides, we quite like the sound of the rain.
- Truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds
- PureNote Technology
- Active Noise Cancellation with Transparent modes
- Seven hours playback time – up to 26 hours with compact charging case
- Minimal, contemporary design
- HearID via Soundcore companion app
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